Lucky Girls

Lucky Girls

2.8 9
by Nell Freudenberger

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Here are five stories, set in Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent -- each one bearing the weight and substance of a short novella -- narrated by young women who find themselves, often as expatriates, face to face with the compelling circumstances of adult love. Living in unfamiliar places, according to new and often frightening rules, these characters become…  See more details below


Here are five stories, set in Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent -- each one bearing the weight and substance of a short novella -- narrated by young women who find themselves, often as expatriates, face to face with the compelling circumstances of adult love. Living in unfamiliar places, according to new and often frightening rules, these characters become vulnerable in unexpected ways -- and learn, as a result, to articulate the romantic attraction to landscapes and cultures that are strange to them. In "Lucky Girls," an American woman who has been involved in a five-year affair with a married Indian man feels bound, following his untimely death, to her memories of him, and to her adopted country. The protagonist of "Outside the Eastern Gate" returns to her childhood home in Delhi to discover a house still inhabited by the desperate and impulsive spirit of her mother who, years before, abandoned her family for a wild, dangerous journey across the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan. And, in "Letter from the Last Bastion," a teenage girl begins a correspondence with a middle-aged male novelist who, having built his reputation writing about his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, confides in her the secret truth of those experiences, and the lie that has defined his life as a man. Lucky Girls marks the arrival of a writer of exceptional talents, one whose generosity of spirit, clarity of intellect and emotion, and skill in storytelling set her among today's most gifted and exciting young voices.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
gorgeously written … a remarkably poised collection of stories … Young writers as ambitious -- and as good -- as Nell Freudenberger give us reason for hope. — Jennifer Schuessler
Publishers Weekly
Freudenberger saw her first story, "Lucky Girls," published in the New Yorker's 2001 debut fiction issue and subsequently received a reported six-figure sum to round out the collection with a bunch more (at that time unwritten) works. The gamble has paid off, at least from a critical perspective: the five long stories in this collection are thoughtful and entertaining. Most take place in Asia and feature Americans living abroad. In the title piece, a young American painter recalls her long affair with a married Indian man. The man has died unexpectedly, and the story traces the development of the narrator's antagonistic yet moving relationship with the mother of her late lover. "The Orphan" is a witty story of a middle-aged couple who, along with their college-age son, go to Thailand for Christmas to visit their daughter and break the news of their impending divorce. The daughter, who works at a Bangkok hospital for orphaned AIDS babies, finds her parents benighted and so... Western, while her brother announces that he belongs to the Cool Rich Kids club, whose members seek to give their parents' money away ("it's this chance to endorse the more radical causes that people your age wouldn't support"). In "The Tutor," a romance blossoms between an Indian SAT coach and a Prada-wearing American teenager living in Bombay who wants nothing more than to get into UC-Berkeley. Many of these tales concern the slow birth and disintegration of romantic relationships, although some lack pull, due to their one-dimensional characters. Freudenberger is more inventive and piquant when she probes characters' relationships to their adopted homelands-which, she shows, are often more passionate and grounded than their ties to the people in their lives. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept. 1) Forecast: A 10-city author tour and an NPR campaign will kick things off for Freudenberger, who has already done advance promotion at BEA. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This American novelist's significant debut features young women experiencing adult love in Southeast Asia and India. These female expatriates view the global community through their own privileged backgrounds in impressive, lyrical, authentic, and exquisite voices. In five stories, Freudenberger provides the reader with an intimate sense of the leap from innocence to experience, the risks of being an outsider, and the strengths of youth making impulsive decisions. The Tutor strikes a familiar cord, as SAT tutor and aspiring writer Zubin in Bombay attempts to further Julia's application to Berkeley, but Julia has other ideas on her mind. The Orphan unearths prejudice and judgment by New York parents in Bangkok as their children also judge them. This story would provide a marvelous discussion between generations because both are so powerfully portrayed. The titular narrative, Lucky Girls, is a simple euphemism for the extreme clash of cultures that are balanced here. Letter from the Last Bastion, a remarkable epistolary effort, highlights a soldier's war crimes in Vietnam, questioning the gap between fact and fiction and marvelously describing "virginity." Outside the Eastern Gate artfully weaves the mystery of a lost mother with personal insecurity. This book is clearly one of the best this reviewer has read in some time. The mature themes and daring prose, however, are meant for adults and a very specific, literary high school audience. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Ecco/HarperCollins, 225p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Nancy Zachary
Library Journal
Reading Freudenberger's short stories is like walking in on the middle of a conversation and having to leave before you catch up on all of the details. The speakers are at best half explained, motivation remains a mystery, and you are left wanting a fuller explanation of events. These five pieces are set mostly in Asia, with themes that include dysfunctional family relationships, failed love affairs, and abandonment. In the title story, for instance, a young woman considers her bonds to India, her adopted homeland, after her married lover dies. But while the characters are nicely diverse, they inspire neither affection nor loathing; we simply know too little about them. They experience no epiphanies, no dramatic changes in circumstances or personal understanding. The stories work best when read slowly, so that we can contemplate a character's mood, but at most we get a glimpse into a complicated scenario. Nevertheless, Freudenberger came to readers' attention in the vaunted New Yorker fiction issue, and her first collection is being highly touted, which may recommend it to large public and most academic contemporary fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/03.]-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Five longish, often familiar, but always readable stories by Freudenberger-like Jonathan Safran Foer, a New Yorker discovery in its Summer 2001 Debut Fiction issue. In the title piece (reprinted from that New Yorker issue), an American girl who paints has an affair with a native Delhi man. When he unexpectedly dies, she's left in a kind of limbo, half-looked-after by the dead man's imperious mother, but not really belonging any longer in Delhi-a fact made cruelly obvious when the dead lover's widow says to her one day, "I have my sons. . . . And you have no one." Longer, looser, and less successful is "The Orphan." An American girl calls home from Bangkok to tell her mother she's been raped by her Thai boyfriend. Result? Meek and wan mother, cold and pompous lawyer father, and college-age brother descend upon her in a "rescue" attempt. All four are spoiled, they fight and nip among themselves, not one is appealing in the least way-and the story's symbols labor against what's asked of them. Altogether more successful-and the best here-is "Outside the Eastern Gate," about another American girl, this one scarred by her poetically (and carelessly) flamboyant mother's abandonment of her-in more than one way. At age 40, the girl returns to her father in his expatriate home in India, where the past crumbles, just as does her father's mind under Alzheimer's. Equally good in its details but much less commanding in it subject is "The Tutor." The American girl lives in Bombay this time, with her divorced father (the mother went back to the US), attending American school and acting like-oy, like a teenager. It's SAT time: she's good in the math but needs work with the verbal, gets a tutor who went toHarvard-and manages to lose her virginity to him. Longest and most strained for its effect is "Letter from the Last Bastian," about a Vietnam-era novelist and the girl of 17 who's writing this long letter about him-and her. Fiction more skillful than memorable. First serial to the Paris Review and Granta; author tour
Raleigh News & Observer
“Skillful and assured...Freudenberger’s prose is smooth.
Houston Press
“Freudenberger is...a fantastic writer.”
Speakeasy magazine
“[Freudenberger’s] stories have the complex nuances of a mature writer.”
Los Angeles Times
“Throughout the book...are moments of sharp humor and wise insight.”
“In simple, elegant prose, she renders foreign landscapes with unsentimental precision.”
“Lucky Girls is a beautiful story that has a graceful simplicity.”
The Journal News
“Extraordinary stories.”
People Magazine
"Lucky Girls is a beautiful story that has a graceful simplicity."
Speakeasy Magazine
"[Freudenberger’s] stories have the complex nuances of a mature writer."

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Nell Freudenberger's collection of stories, Lucky Girls, was a New York Times Notable Book and won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2005 Freudenberger was the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award. She lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
April 21, 1975
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Harvard University, 1997; M.F.A., New York University, 2000

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Lucky Girls 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not enjoy this at all, the characters were not likeable, the writing was not inspiring. When I saw that it had won an award I had hope. Perhaps I should dust off my own medicore pieces and see what I come up with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most boring and contrived books written and published in the past years. Very poor character devt and no good sense of narrative and dull, MFA'd cookie-cutter approaches, pass on this one folks.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first read the reviews for this book I was very eager to read the stories therein- I had no idea that the reviews would be better than the stories themselves. There is one story in the middle of the book that turned out very well (a good thing, if not I wouldn't have wanted to continue reading) but the other stories proved to be a bit weak in both storyline, and writing. If you'd like to read this book, borrow it from the library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It sounds like it sucks
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I used to work in a book store and got this book as an advance reading copy. I LOVED it so much that now I often buy it to give as gifts. A beautiful collection of short stories!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading one of the author's short stories in The New Yorker, and had eagerly been anticipating this collection. Several of the stories are consisent with the New Yorker story: many of the main characters are expatriats experiencing dilemnas with love, and confusion with where they belong. While I enjoyed the first few stories and found them to be very well written, the later stories, especially the last story about the author, were not as enjoyable. Overall, I found the common themes and tone of the collection to be melancholy and depressing .